GIVAT ALIYA BEACH in Jaffa is seen from the balcony of the Peres Center for Peace.
(photo credit: DANNY SAVILLE / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
For a place known as the “Big Orange,” Tel Aviv is set to go increasingly green as the municipality has approved a plan to a protect urban nature sites, joining Jerusalem as only the second Israeli city to do so.
The plan approved on Wednesday aims to protect nature sites within city boundaries and safeguard the environment during construction – a major concern since seemingly every street in town has a crane or crew at work.
The initiative is a joint effort between the city’s Local Building and Planning Committee and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, and grew out of a 2012 survey that examined the ecological quality of 51 sites such as beaches, sand dunes, parks and rivers.
The most ecologically important places in the city are defined as the Tel Baruch Beach in the northern Ramat Aviv neighborhood and the Givat Aliya Beach in Jaffa, based on the variety of plants, unique species, level of preservation and connection to other sites in the area.
Other highly important sites are the cliffs just below the Tel Aviv Port that overlook the northern part of the beach, as well as the entire eastern part of Yarkon Park.
One of the plan’s recommendations is to minimize the use of pesticides in and around public nature sites. It would also mandate that any new plants introduced into an area be native to Israel.
The program calls for development plans to require an environmental survey, carried out by a certified ecologist, in order to find ways to prevent or minimize damage to the natural surroundings.
In approving the plan, the Tel Aviv Municipality also pledged to survey and select additional sites that should undergo restoration for ecological or education purposes, and to provide updates on whether the condition of certain sites is improving or becoming even worse.
Mayor Ron Huldai praised the plan for “specifically laying out which and how many sites will be preserved for the future and for the city’s residents.
“I hope that starting today, the children of this city will be able to see firsthand the plants bud, the wildflowers in full bloom, to touch and experience the natural wonders around them that [the effects of] urbanization had so greatly diminished.”
Idan Amit, an environmental planner with the Tel Aviv-Jaffa branch of SPNI and one of the paper’s overseers, lauded the city for taking this positive step, but said much more needs to be done. He called the city’s approval of the plan merely “decoration” since it does not have the power of law.
Amit and many others are waiting for city hall to incorporate the new guidelines into its master plan.